Block, Novel, Writing

Sometimes You Already Have the Answer

I wrote some strong, honest words this week. I had a burst of writing on one of my WIPs—it’s the one you see in the sidebar, temporarily titled FISH. I started off writing it at a good pace (for me), but that came to a stop last November at about 14,000 words.

bluechairsI hung up my writer’s hat for the month of December. In January, I went back to work and wrote steadily, but stopped again at 26,000 words because I came to a bridge scene and couldn’t decide how to cross it.

Since I try to write something every day, I switched to working on my other WIP (working title TEA.) After I’d gotten 10,000 words into that one, I distracted myself with trying out Scrivener by setting it up to work on TEA.  As you know from my last post, that was a good experience.

But I wasn’t writing.

I set up all my folders and text files, and even found celebrity photos to attach to my character cards for TEA. Then I decided to set up another Scrivener project for FISH. And, of course, I had to find photos to represent my FISH characters too. And I researched 1970s home interiors, bathing suit styles, and marijuana laws because FISH is set in 1974.

But I wasn’t writing.

I wasn’t “blocked” from working on TEA. I just felt strongly that I needed to return to writing FISH, partly because I’ve lived with it longer, I’m comfortable with it, and partly because it’s another women’s fiction novel, while TEA is more an experiment. But I still hadn’t worked out that particular scene.

I felt guilty about not writing. So I tried to read because that usually sparks my writing (which is why it usually takes me forever to get through a book), but I couldn’t concentrate on reading. I went to sleep every night trying to figure out how best to move into the next section of FISH.

Now we all know a writer writes … right? So I decided that until I figured out the solution to that sticky scene, what I needed to do was open that project’s Scenes-to-Write folder and work on a scene I’d written the bare bones of previously. That was a success, and it led to reworking a few too-short scenes, raising my word count by a couple thousand.

Then I opened and read another skeleton scene—just dialogue with a few “stage directions”—started months ago. I expanded the dialogue and turned those directions into narrative. Four hundred words grew to thirteen hundred and counting. And then it hit me: if I changed the setting, this scene would be the perfect bridge!

I’m continually amazed at the Muse—and by that I mean a writer’s mind. In the background or in this case, in advance, it’s always working. Sometimes the answer we’re looking for is already there. We just need to get out of our own way to find it. BICHOK*


*For those who don’t know, this stands for Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.

Novel, Publish, Writing

Why I Don’t Want to Be a Professional Writer

Earlier this month I blogged that “I need to focus on what I CAN do, who I CAN be, and … that means I must STOP comparing myself to other writers.” Today I’m going to expand on that. For a while now, I’ve wondered why I’ve been so frustrated and discouraged since I published my first novel. I finally realized the reason: I’d lost the enjoyment of writing because I didn’t have a clear picture of myself as a writer.

whoamI.jpgWhen I first started blogging, I found the blogs of several other writers who hoped to be published one day. I followed their links to literary agents’ blogs and learned about querying. I set my sights on getting an agent because I believed that was the only way to get published. Later, I started following bloggers who were self-publishing. And when circumstances in my life changed, I decided to stop querying agents and publish my own book. But I was still reading the blogs of these successful self-publishers who were apparently selling hundreds of books a month, so I became dissatisfied with my trickle of sales and searched for tips on how to rocket my books to the top of the Amazon charts.

I wasn’t long before I realized it took more than writing well to have a book in the top 10—or even the top 100. I tried many things before I accepted I didn’t have the resources (money and influence) necessary to compete as a self-publisher. As for the advice to write, edit, revise, and publish three or more books a year? Why sure. You want me to bring peace to the Middle East too?  Two and a half years of trying to do the impossible left me frustrated, angry, jealous, self-pitying—a whole bucketful of stinking mess.

So last fall I returned to my first plan. I’d have to get an agent, who could sell my books to a big NY publisher who did have all the resources. I set off to write another book with the goal of dazzling an agent and editor. At times, I heard that still, small voice of reason, but I pushed it away.

That voice kept trying to tell me to look at the other side. To pay attention when I stood in Barnes & Noble watching a friend give a presentation at her first book signing and knew I’d faint dead away if I had to do that. To pay attention when I saw writer friends embark on blog tours, doing interviews and guest posts every day for weeks and felt my heart pound at the very idea. To pay attention when I got stressed out just thinking about having to meet, Skype, or even have a phone conversation with an agent or editor. To pay attention when my writer friends worried about meeting deadlines for their 3-book deals and I knew that my “Muse” would shut down under that pressure.

Finally I listened. I gave up the idea of being traditionally published. And then I hit rock bottom. I felt like a failure. I quit writing. For a month.

That’s all I could stand before my fingers itched to get back to the keyboard. I kept hearing lines of dialogue. I kept envisioning scenes. I had characters waiting to finish telling their stories. I started writing again, but I didn’t know why I bothered. Then I came across this post by Anne R. Allen. She defined me as a hobbyist writer. But then I read this response by Jami Gold and I liked her term better—an artist-author. Both women pointed out that being a hobbyist/artist-author rather than a professional author doesn’t mean my writing is necessarily of lesser quality. Jami said:

In fact, what Anne is talking about are the two paths for authors who do care about quality. The major difference instead is whether we have a business mindset …

I work as hard and edit and revise as earnestly as the professional author. I just don’t have a business bone in my body. I’ve stressed myself into illness trying to become something I’m not suited for. Enough of that. Sure I’d like to make more money doing what I love. But if I quit focusing on that goal and spend more time writing, maybe I will. No one knows the future.

But I know who I am now. I’m a woman who loves to write stories and who loves to study the craft of writing so she can write even better stories to share. That’s what I’ll be doing the rest of this year. And then I’ll publish those books and, judging from past experience, some people will buy and read them and some of those will say good things about my writing and I’ll be a happy artist-author. Being an artist-author sounds like a great gig, doesn’t it?

Tell me: Do you see yourself as an artist-author or a professional-author?

Read Anne R. Allen’s definitions.

Read Jami Gold’s definitions.

Fiction, My Books, Novel, Writing

Brevity’s less than a buck!

Yes, brevity means less time, but for the next few days it also means less money. That’s right; my debut novel, The Brevity of Roses, is on sale today through Tuesday for only 99-cents!

In case you’re new around here and don’t know anything about this novel, which was the mainstream fiction runner-up in the 2013 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent Book Awards, here’s the back cover blurb:

The Brevity of Roses: A man discovers himself through the two women he loves.In this contemporary tale of love, loss, and redemption, a desperate man discovers his salvation lies in an unlikely source.

Jalal Vaziri has looks, money, women–and a habit of running from reality. Convinced he’s only running from a father who hates him, a career mistake, and endless partying, he abandons Wall Street and reinvents himself as a poet in a California beach house. A fresh start is all he needs. When Meredith, an intriguing older woman enters his life, he believes all his dreams are coming true. But too soon those dreams dissolve into nightmare. Jalal flees again. He’s nearing the point of no return when young and feisty Renee blocks his retreat and challenges him to finally face the truth about what he’s trying to outrun.

You can also download here a sample to your Kindle or click LOOK INSIDE to read the first 32 pages.

If you’ve read Brevity and enjoyed it, would you please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to let your friends and followers know about the sale? Thanks for your support.



Contest, My Books, Novel, Writing

Got a few minutes to spare?

2013finalist-tinySix weeks ago, I announced that my novel The Brevity of Roses had been named a finalist in the Best of the Independent eBook Awards. Now, I’m reminding you there are only four days left to vote. But not only am I asking for your vote, I’m giving you a pictorial to show you how to do it. (Images courtesy of author Lisa Regan. More about her at the end of this post.)

Have you already voted for another book? No worries, you can vote for one book in each category! My book is a finalist in the General/ Mainstream Fiction Category.

STEP 1. Go HERE and register.

efest 001


The Captcha thing–hit play and a phrase will come up along the bottom of the video after 2-4 seconds.  Type that in.

After you agree to the terms and hit submit, you’re actually DONE.  It will take you to a page that says, “You’re almost finished . . . ”  THAT’S AN AD.  You don’t actually have to do anything there.  So close out the page.


efest 003 


 efest 004

STEP 2.  Then go HERE to the Awards Hall to vote. Or after you click PORTAL, look for this and click on the words AWARDS HALL:

efest 002



The General/Mainstream Fiction category is the second listed in the Awards Hall and if you click on it, you’ll see THE BREVITY OF ROSES as the first entry. Just click beside it to vote. Thank you very much!

41Dx9SyihRL-199x300BUT WAIT, while you’re there, why not vote for another book? Since Lisa Regan graciously loaned me her screen caps, but mostly because her book has 73 reviews on Amazon and 63 of them are 5 stars! please consider voting for Lisa Regan’s suspense novel FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER in both the Best Novel and the Best Hero/Heroine categories.

I hope you’re enjoying your last days of summer … or winter if you’re on the opposite side of earth from me.


Fiction, Novel, Writing

How am I going to tell this story?

povTwo of the decisions a writer has to make are which point of view and tense to use in telling their story. I’ve written short stories in third-person past tense, first past, first present, first past, and once in second present. I’ve written two novels in third-person past and one in first present. What? No third-person present or second-person past stories? Hmmm …

Anyway, I’ve begun work on my next novel, and though I love editing to refine syntax and word choice, I can’t say the same about revision. I love the result, of course, just not the process. So, I’d like to settle on point of view and tense before I write any more, to avoid the chore of changing those two elements in a completed book.

I’ve experimented with a few sentences, adapted from one of the stories, to evaluate which produces the most compelling voice.

1. [First-person present tense]

  • The night touches me with soft kisses, its promises true, devoutly kept. I breathe it in and exhale pain and fear. I rise and enter the house, fumbling for the door lock. I smile at myself. In this place, I have no need to lock anyone out.

2. [Third-person present tense]

  • The night touches her with soft kisses, its promises true, devoutly kept. She breathes it in and exhales pain and fear. She rises and enters the house, fumbling for the door lock. She smiles at herself. In this place, she has no need to lock anyone out.

3. [First-person past tense]

  • The night touched me with soft kisses, its promises true, devoutly kept. I breathed it in and exhaled pain and fear. I rose and entered the house, fumbling for the door lock. I smiled at myself. In that place, she had no need to lock anyone out.

4. [Third-person past tense]

  • The night touched her with soft kisses, its promises true, devoutly kept. She breathed it in and exhaled pain and fear. She rose and entered the house, fumbling for the door lock. She smiled at herself. In that place, she had no need to lock anyone out.

Does one of those stand out to you? I’m favoring first present, but maybe that’s only because I used that for my last novel. But here’s another problem. This novel began life as two short stories, and those stories are told from two different characters’ viewpoints—one in present tense, the other in past.

I believe An Illusion of Trust worked told in first-person present tense, but I wrote it from only one viewpoint. I don’t know if that would hold true using first present for two characters throughout a whole novel. And both viewpoints do have to be in the same tense, right? Right? Shoot. Now, I’m confusing and confounding myself.

Any thoughts you’d like to share on choosing viewpoint and tense?